A Massachusetts store clerk embroiled in the unique case involving a $3 million lottery ticket admitted Friday that she tried to cash in on the winnings, despite knowing they belonged to someone else.
Carly Nunes, 24, had a choice when she discovered the ticket had been left behind. The decision she made resulted in multiple criminal charges of larceny and fraud.
In Brockton Superior Court on Friday, Nunes admitted there was enough evidence to find her guilty of one of those felony indictments — trying to file a false claim.
The three other charges against her were dismissed. Judge William Sullivan imposed a sentence of two years of probation with the requirement of continuing substance abuse treatment.
"Some people are faced with choices they have to make," Sullivan told Nunes. "And you either have to make the right one or the wrong one. And this was the wrong one."
Surveillance footage from a Lakeville convenience store, previously called Savas, lays out the sequence of events.
Last January, a man named Paul Little bought a Mega Millions lottery ticket and a bag of chips.
Nunes, the store cashier, forgot to hand Little the ticket, and he left without noticing.
Days later, video captured Nunes attempting to claim the prize at the Lottery headquarters in Dorchester. Prosecutors say she was with two men — one another store employee, identified as 32-year-old Joseph Reddem. The ticket Nunes provided was torn and burned.
Employees became suspicious when they saw Nunes and Reddem arguing in the lobby and launched an investigation into the purchases. Reddem is accused of trying to extort Nunes for money from the jackpot.
Plymouth County prosecutor Alexander Zane said the Commonwealth recommended a prison sentence of one to two years to send a message about upholding the integrity of the state's lottery system. But he acknowledged the temptation that Nunes faced.
"I truly don't know if anybody put in the situation that this young woman was in at least wouldn't have thought of doing what she tried to do," Zane said. "The instinct to have potentially $3 million in her hands was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
Nunes was eventually indicted by a grand jury and arrested on a warrant when she skipped her arraignment.
She's been released and has been attending court-ordered substance abuse treatment.
On Friday, Nunes' attorney, David Nagle, spoke about how his client's life has changed since the indictment.
"She's been sober since the day she was arrested. And the transformation in her demeanor, in her appearance and her attitude in thinking clearly is remarkable," Nagle said. "Quite frankly, had she walked out of the lottery commission with the $3 million in her pocket, she might not be on this Earth today."
After a lengthy investigation by Massachusetts State Police, Little learned he was actually the rightful winner and finally received the large check last June.
Reached by phone about the conclusion to the case, Little said that Nunes is young enough to learn from the mistake and pick a different direction in life.
"I wish her the best and pray good things come her way," Little said.
Mark William Bracken, executive director of the Massachusetts State Lottery, also reacted to the outcome.
"The integrity of our games is critical to the Lottery's mission of supporting cities and towns. This case is an example of the steps we will take to ensure that prizes are being claimed by the proper ticket owners. We appreciate the efforts of law enforcement in maintaining public trust in the Lottery by holding accountable those attempting to fraudulently claim prizes," he said in a statement.
Reddem is facing charges for his alleged extortion attempt. He is scheduled to on trial in May.